Touching on !!! and ???

Exclamation PointIt’s one of those things we all agree we hate yet are all guilty of doing. Like not holding the elevator doors. But guys, seriously, this !!! and ??? stuff is getting out of hand.

One exclamation point? Fine. Necessary if you’re an excitable person! One question mark: cool. No problem.

Two exclamation points or question marks? Okaaaaaay, but you’re on thin ice, mister.

Three or more? Oh. Oh, we gonna fight.

Here are the times and places I think !!! or ??? is appropriate:

1. A text or e-mail sharing news about a marriage/pregnancy/new job/lottery winnings
2. A hipsterly ironic tweet or IM
3. In trying to convey simple messages to people who do not speak English

When I get an e-mail from someone saying something like, “Where is the report????” or “The meeting is tomorrow!!!!!!” I can only assume the sender is having some kind of unprofessional seizure. And that maybe someone has told them to stop CAPSLOCKING their messages, so they’ve moved onto the next best thing. You’ve gotten these messages and rolled your eyes, right?

Okay. Now admit you’ve done it. Because you have, because you get carried away in an angry or excited e-mail exchange and you forget how to write like an adult: with one. Final. Punctuation mark at the end of your sentences. (Not including the interrobang, which is often written as !? but can actually be counted as one mark. You know‽)

In an effort to lend our everyday messages some urgency or verve that we find lacking in our usual communication, we are often tempted to go overboard on things like this. Fight the feeling. Be the bigger person. Just say, “Where is the report?”

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  • Personally, I am a fan of the interrobang. I mean, why wouldn't you be‽‽‽

  • beccameyers

    I totally agree BUT I have weird pet peeves and for some reason don't like two in a row so I go to three but never more and never professionally. Please don't hate me?!?

  • In order to determine the worth of an exclamation mark in an e-mail, IM, wherever, I imagine myself saying that phrase excitedly to the recipient.

    9.9 times out of ten, the feigned excitement is unwarranted.

    Great post!

  • ABV

    Great post. Short, simple and so true! You actually had me laughing out loud.

  • I also like things in groups of 3. I'm kind of AR that way. My personal rule is no more than 1 ever. But I didn't wanna be so draconian with everyone who may like things in groups of 2.

  • Totally love this post!!!!!!!! Seriously, one exclamation point is sufficient, especially in professional contexts. You don't want to sound like a tween girl. “OMG, can you, like, get that report for me, like, sometime today????? U r the best!!!!!!!!”

  • heatherwhaling

    TJ, I love your posts! (Note only 1 exclamation point … even though it may deserve multiple.) I never knew the ?! had a real name. Thanks for enlightening me about the “interrobang” — one of my favorites. 🙂

  • I have been known to favor: “Where is the effin' report?”
    ; >)

  • i love your thinking, i really do and can't wait to meet you (because i was told i MUST)… but y'know, first ellipses, and now exclamation points and question marks… what's next?!?! :)}}

  • One of my favorite journalism professors told me to write as though you've been given an allotment of three exclamation points to use throughout your entire life. All of it.

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